D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones cautions: Never interpret Scripture in the light of your experiences, but rather, interpret your experiences in the penetrating light of Scripture. When experience lines up with Scripture, the emotions that follow can be good and God-given. Emotions can be a mark of the Spirit as reflected in the life of Griffith Jones, who preached during the Welsh revivals of the 18th century: “The tears [of the congregation] began to flow in streams down their cheeks. Soon, they wept openly, and cried out, ‘What shall we do to be saved’?”
Further, it was not uncommon for people to tremble and weep or shout for joy under the anointed preaching of George Whitefield. When God moves, you should get “emotional.” When a pigskin travels 100 yards across a field, millions get emotional, should not Christians saved by the power of God praise Him when they experience Him? Those who have been forgiven much love much and love fuels emotion.
George Whitefield, once perplexed by the emotional things taking place when he preached, asked Lady Huntingdon for advice. She said, “Oh George, leave them alone. What they are experiencing from God will do far more than you’re preaching” (paraphrase). God often wrecks a life before He rebuilds it.
On the flip-side, those who use past revivals in an attempt to validate odd behavior today perhaps have not truly researched revivals. In reading Charismatics and Calvinists, and Pentecostals and Puritans, as well as countless biographies of leaders such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, and Charles Spurgeon, and puritans such as Thomas Goodwin, John Bunyan, John Owen, and Richard Baxter, nowhere do these leaders encourage the hysteria or the outright weirdness that we sometimes see today.
Granted, there were rare times of strong conviction such as when people held on to trees thinking that they were falling into the abyss of hell during the famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, by Jonathan Edwards. And people did cry out to God, and/or fall on the ground under the strong conviction of sin during the Revivals of George Whitefield, John Wesley, and Evan Roberts, but this is because sin, righteousness, and holiness were preached—“falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25). This is true revival...it is emotional; it is unpredictable.
Do we really believe the Apostle Paul would tell us to sit down and be quiet during worship? To put our hands down and contain ourselves? Granted, he may rebuke skinny-jeans, silly trends, and sappy worship songs with no theological power, but would he handcuff our emotions?
Are we embarrassed that Paul spoke in tongues? Do we feel bad for the early church because they needed the supernatural gifts of the Spirit but apparently we don’t? We need a reality check: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me…(Acts 1:8).” Emotions can be good and God-given, but make sure that they are the caboose and not the engine of the train - they follow obedience to God and His word - they are not a gauge for truth.
The power of the Holy Spirit is like dynamite that ignites a hunger for God so intense that every aspect of life is changed—we become bold, not passive; stable not fanatical; and committed not wavering. I agree with Leonard Ravenhill, “We need to close every church in the land for one Sunday and cease listening to a man so we can hear the groan of the Spirit which we in our lush pews have forgotten.”
Straight as a gun barrel, but just as empty: We need sound doctrine and the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s possible to be “Bible taught,” but not “Spirit-led.” The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:6).
How can so many pastors recommend D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones fantastic book, Preaching and Preachers, yet conveniently avoid the last chapter entitled, Demonstration of the Spirit and of the Power? Are they embarrassed that he drove this point home in the opening paragraph: “I have kept and reserved this last lecture what is after all the greatest essential in connection with preaching, and that is the unction and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.” Pastors - have you received this unction; this baptism of fire?
“Have you been filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit?” is the most important question you can ask. Are you truly desperate for more of God? A.W. Tozer insightfully said, “If the Lord’s people were only half as eager to be filled with the Spirit as they are to prove that they cannot be filled, the church would be crowded out.” I sincerely believe that the greatest need in the church today is to confess our sins, obey the Word, and to be filled with the Spirit.
Many of us are afraid of what we’ve never experienced. The Holy Spirit is very active in the lives of those who are open and teachable. Just talk to missionaries in persecuted areas. The movie, Insanity of God, is a wonderful example. I highly recommend this movie: http://www.insanityofgodmovie.com/
In the words of Oswald Chambers before he received a mighty downpour of the Spirit, “God used me during those years…but I had no conscious communion with Him. The Bible was the dullest, most uninteresting book in existence…”
Then he writes a few years later, “If the four previous years had been hell on earth, these five years have truly been heaven on earth. Glory be to God, the last aching abyss of the human heart is filled to overflowing with the love of God.” Heaven was rent; the downpour came to his parched soul. Now the decision is yours. Fully surrender your life to the work of the Spirit today. Are you desperate for more of Him?
* Watch the trailer, Desperate for More of God, here: https://youtu.be/VDZxrO6FbVI. And hear the related sermon here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iovoQ1Xh4NY&t=1095s.